Fool for France

These ducks, a mom and three little ducklings, may be a little hard to see, but they’re fine. The other day I found out why I’d never have made it as a photojournalist. When I found the dead ducks, the thought of taking a picture came right after being horrified. When I did think of it, I didn’t care. I just wanted to know how this happened.

At first I thought hunters shot the parents, leaving the babies to die. But the duckling that wan’t floating dead in the water was on the house steps, intact apart from the gouge taken out of its neck. Bugs would not have done that. And why, with such young ducklings, still sporting their downy yellow pin feathers, were there already eggs, beautiful blue eggs, in the nest.

Right about then Julien came by. He assured me that it wasn’t hunters. Hunting season is over. It might have been dogs, but since dogs don’t have access to my pond or to that of the neighbor, it was probably cats. And the eggs? Who knows how they got there, but even if we could reach a nest that was a good meter into the pond, we don’t have the means to keep the little guys alive. Just let it go. And let’s hope the cats don’t get those huge noisy frogs. We need the frogs.

About a week later I was back at the rental house. I couldn’t resist a peek at the nest. It had been dressed up with bright fresh leaves and there was a new mom with new little ducklings. No frogs, but maybe they were just being quiet that day.

So this is what I figure. Somebody’s well-fed psychopathic cats decided to have a little fun torturing and killing, but not bothering to eat, the first batch of ducks. They probably came upon them foraging for insects in the grass, something like that. A different duck found an abandoned nest, too good to resist, dressed it up and settled in. New day, new babies. Did the cats kill the frogs? Is that why it was so quiet? Impossible to say: I’m not that good at frog identification. If I saw the frogs again I’d have no idea whether they were the originals. But now that the neighbor cats know my rental house’s back garden as a happy hunting ground, they’ll be back. I fear for the new little guys.

7 Replies to “Dead Ducks”

  1. It is amazing that nature supplies solutions – another duck looks after the orphan eggs and ducklings – there may be a philosophical thought in this balance of nature – which I leave for others to ponder.

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    1. Nope. Cats just kill. There is an interesting article in today’s NYT about feral cats in Australia. They go into some detail about cat psychology. Back at my house, the new ducks could easily wind up as dead as the other ones. In this situation there is no balance.

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    2. Oh. In this case the orphan ducklings were killed or just died. The eggs and new ducklings were those of the new mom. She just took over the old nest.

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  2. We have the same problem, of neighbor cats killing not with ducks but birds. The cats do it for fun, out of instinct, not hunger. I chase after them. I don’t hurt the cats (the exercise is probably good for them) but I do send them packing. They can hunt in their own yard.
    Humans are in invasive species, pushing out wildlife and bringing in our domesticated animals that further kill or scare off wildlife. Dogs running loose in forests also terrify wild animals; they’re supposed to be leashed but people think that it’s all nature and all fine.
    David Attenborough suggested cat owners put bells on their cats to help save birds: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/dec/10/cats-killing-birds-gardens-david-attenborough

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    1. The trouble is, birds don’t relate the bell with danger. All folks can really do is keep the cats inside. It means cleaning a litter box every day, but I know from apartment sitting for a friend with two cats, they will love you for it. His cats learned what time I would clean the box and they would wait for it so they could take their dumps on fresh sand. They were super-indolent. They didn’t mind being inside at all. I have had friends with houses who put a cat door in the wall, so the litter box could be outdoors, with a little exercise pen. The cats pooped and came right back in. No exercise, no no and no. So keeping a cat responsibly can be done. Like a lot of things, it’s a matter of building habits.

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